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Per Nørgård 90 years: New CD box collects the eight symphonies

Per Nørgård © Lars Skaaning

Per Nørgård 90 years: New CD box collects the eight symphonies

On 13 July, one of the greatest symphonist of our time, the Danish composer Per Nørgård turns 90. Dacapo Records marks the day with the release of a CD box, which collects Nørgård's eight symphonies, in award-winning recordings.

20 June 2022

'I feel each of my symphonies is a whole continent in itself,' says Danish composer Per Nørgård (b. 1932). One of the greatest symphonists of our time, his music stems from an insatiable urge to explore the phenomena of the world and the possibilities of music. His eight symphonies stand as milestones over the course of six decades.

On 13 July, Per Nørgård turns 90. Dacapo Records celebrates this with the release of the CD box set 8 Symphonies, containing spellbinding performances which harvested a bumper crop of critical superlatives on their initial release. These recordings provide a fascinating insight into the symphonic thinking of Nørgård.

Free creativity and new compositional techniques

Per Nørgård has always sought out new paths followed the sounds he has heard in his inner ear. A Nordic tune in the earlier works reveals inspiration from both his teacher Vagn Holmboe and from his idol, Jean Sibelius.

In the 1960s, Nørgård found his own serial technique, called the Infinity Series, an endless serial tone row that generates intervals and combines the rule-bound with the natural. The technique produces a harmonic sense of wholeness, and is an expression of a holistic philosophy of life, that mixes music theory with astrology and features from Eastern mysticism.

Six decades of symphonies

Per Nørgård's eight symphonies, composed between 1953 and 2011, stand as pillars in his life:

In the youth work Symphony No. 1 with the title Sinfonia austera (“Austere Symphony”) we hear a clear link with Finland’s great composer Sibelius. In the almost psychedelic Symphony No. 2, Nørgård for the first time unfolds his Infinity Series, which is further developped in Symphony No. 3, which is frequently performed.

The Symphonies 4 & 5 are some of Nørgård's most dramatic works; the chaotic and troubled Symphony No. 4 is inspired by the schizophrenic Swiss artist Adolf Wölfli, and in the fearless Symphony No. 5, the composer seems to embrace violent forces of nature.

"Når alt kommer til at/At the End of the Day" is the name of the sixth symphony, in which the mature composer proves more exploratory and  playful than ever. Symphony No. 7 was commissioned for the inauguration of Danmarks Radio's new concert hall in Copenhagen in 2009 – a dynamic, highly complex work coloured by much use of percussion and a myriad of impulses. The eight and last symphony stands out by being more light and playful, transparent and airy than any of the other symphonies.

Box set with the complete cycle

On the occasion of Nørgård's 90th birthday, Dacapo Records is releasing the first complete box set with the eight symphonies on four CD's. The box set 8 Symphonies will be released on Friday 8 July, just a few days before the actual birthday.

The box set contains prize-winning recordings of the symphonies with world-class orchestras and conductors. Symphonies 1 & 8 are recorded by the Vienna Philharmonic and Sakari Oramo. In 2015, the recording won the prestigious Gramophone Award for Best Contemporary Recording. 

Symphonies 3 & 7 are recorded by the Danish National Symphony Orchestra and Thomas Dausgaard. The album received top reviews including 6 stars in Danish newspaper Berlingske and the character 10/10 from Classics Today.

Symphonies 2 & 6 and Symphonies 4 & 5 are recorded by the Oslo Philharmonic and John Storgårds. The two albums were released in 2016 and was awarded top marks by BBC Music Magazine, Politiken and Magasinet Klassisk as well as the Editor's Choice title in Gramophone.

  • Per Nørgård

    Symphonies 3 and 7

  • Per Nørgård

    Symphonies 1 & 8

  • Per Nørgård

    Symphonies 2 & 6

  • Per Nørgård

    Symphonies 4 & 5

  • Per Nørgård

    String Quartets 7, 8, 9 and 10

  • Per Nørgård

    Singing Secrets